We could be getting some extra fireworks this Fourth of July. Owners have approved a plan for the return of baseball at the beginning of July, taking us one step closer to Major League Baseball’s official 2020 start.
The plan for a shortened season, which will require the approval of the players before moving forward, will provide a truly unique year of baseball due to several alterations to the game.
First, the schedule will be cut down to 82 games from the traditional 162-game regular season. The change would allow baseball to remain relatively close to its normal end date, thereby not having long-term effects on future seasons.
Of those 82 games, a geography-based schedule would mean teams only play in-division opponents and interleague opponents in the same general area. For example, AL East teams would only play teams from the AL East and NL East.
Due to the fact that so much interleague play is expected, MLB owners have approved the universal designated hitter position for the 2020 season. This could provide a slight edge to AL teams, which will have already built rosters with the inclusion of a DH in mind.
The owners’ proposal also includes the expansion of playoff teams from 10 to 14, which would help to curtail losses from holding games without fans in stadiums. Roughly 40% of the MLB’s total revenue is estimated to come from ticket sales and other gate-related income.
Additional points of the owners’ proposed plan include a June “spring training” period in which no games would be played, and the ability to hold 50-man rosters.
Proposed Salary Cap Expected to Hold Up Negotiations
While health concerns are certainly a point of contention for players, the biggest hold up to the approval of the proposed plan is likely to revolve around the financial changes.
Owners have proposed a 50-50 revenue split for the 2020 season only, but players in a sport that’s never included any revenue split won’t be eager to sign on. While revenue splits are common in leagues with a salary cap, no such cap exists in Major League Baseball.
Players have already agreed to be paid prorated salaries based on the number of games played in the 2020 season and are likely to have strong reservations about the proposed revenue split.
MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark showed the first signs of push back. “That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past—and to anonymously negotiate through the media for the last several days—suggests they know exactly how this will be received,” Clark said.
Yankees, Dodgers Favored In New Season
Although several obstacles remain, included gaining approval from players and health officials, Major League Baseball has taken a strong step toward the sport’s return. When professional baseball does get underway, familiar names will lead the list of contenders.
Boosted by the acquisition of pitcher Gerrit Cole, the Yankees own odds of +380 to win the World Series. That puts New York level with the Dodgers atop the list of frontrunners.
Significantly behind the two favorites but ahead of the rest of the pack are the Astros, who currently own odds of +750 to win it all.
Only four other teams—Atlanta (+1400), Minnesota (+1600), Tampa Bay (+1800), and Washington (+1800)—own odds better than +2000.